BY JAKE NICOLLE
Do you want even hands? It’s hard to imagine any drummer who wouldn’t welcome having two dominant hands to improve control while moving around the kit. We believe when your less dominant hand rises to the occasion, you’ll notice a drastic difference in not only your sound on the drum set, but your overall confidence while playing. So how did we end up with this weak hand in the first place?
BIRTH OF THE WEAK HAND
Imagine if a weightlifter trained only one side of his body. How would that affect him? Not very well, and yet you have allowed one hand to do most of the work throughout your drumming career. You have become, in many ways, that one-sided bodybuilder. We favor our dominant hand while doing everything from brushing our teeth and opening a door to picking up cutlery and navigating mobile devices. This further develops and replicates itself in our drumming.
The hi-hat/ride cymbal hand generally plays eight notes per measure while the left plays two on the backbeats. That means it plays four times as many notes as your weak hand. If your average song is three minutes at a tempo of 120 bpm, it works out to 90 measures, or 45 snare hits for every 720 hi-hat strokes. Have you clued in on the issue? Your weak hand isn’t actually weak, but is simply an untrained, ignored, and secondary sidekick. No wonder you feel sluggish on the drum kit. Well, we have good news: Your “weak hand” days will soon be behind you. The following pages will turn your weak hand into a lead hand in ten days.
Prepare for a revolution.
Let’s begin with a simple exercise to prove we have room to grow. Don’t let the simplicity of these exercises fool you — focus on making each note sound even on your practice pad. Practice these patterns in front of a mirror so you can also monitor stick height. (To spare your neck, avoid looking down at your sticks.) We’ve notated a left hand lead, as most drummers are right handed, but if your left hand is your dominant hand, flip the sticking patterns around to lead with your weak hand. Use your bass drum foot to anchor beat 1. Make a note of which rudiments challenged you most, so we can track the changes that begin to take place over the next ten days.
Practice each exercise independently. As your comfort level increases, try playing them back-to-back: single strokes into double strokes into paradiddles. Repeat. The goal is to make each exercise sound exactly the same, without accents. Consistency is key!
DAY 1: CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
Meet the single stroke pyramid. Conquered by few, a defeater of many. To avoid getting beat up by this one, I encourage students to begin at Ex. 4 in the pyramid, work down to Ex. 1 and back to Ex. 4. Cycle that a few times to overcome the most daring part of the pyramid. Then once you’ve begun to feel comfortable, start at Ex. 8, go down to Ex. 1 and back up to Ex. 8 without stopping. Gradually increase speed. To improve your dynamics, try playing this as loudly and quietly as you can.
- Start slow, say it and play it
- Listen to each hand
- Practice in front of a mirror
- Isolate the lower portions of the pyramid (4–1, 1–4)
- Try to make each bar flow seamlessly into the next. Legato!